13 Ways to Promote Your Website for Free
If you happen to own just a small website or a big one with still no actual marketing budget, you need to be creative. How to get a fair share of internet users to visit your site?
Forget the great marketing budgets - this is yesterday's business model. Companies spending billions just to promote their products or services. While in many cases, paying for your banner ads loads of money could pay off and very often for branding purposes this is often still a good way to go, more and more website owners are looking into social marketing. Today there are hundreds of web 2.0 (social media) sites out there which can be used to promote your website.
The basics are simple - you join the community and depending of the type of the site, you either start connecting yourself with as many other members as possible (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) followed by sharing "interesting" links from your own websites with them. Or link collection sites Digg.com, Fark.com, Fazed.org and alike. The purpose of it all, at least business-wise, is still to promote your own product to as many people as possible. I know some of you might say that LinkedIn is not a marketing tool but I dare to differ. While the main idea of LinkedIn is networking with people, sharing your resume, finding work and communicating with people...isn't it still pretty much the same as you do in every other community? I know people in LinkedIn with a network of 15 000 plus people. And the profile owner hasn't created such a big network just to communicate - it's for business purposes, for promotion of him as an entrepreneur or business owner, or for promotion of his website.
Whatever you do in your efforts to promote your website, social marketing should definitely be one of your tools.
Word of mouth - your own
Who will do the marketing for you if you yourself are unwilling to do it? You need to start your marketing efforts by telling people about your website yourself. Start with your friends, continue with relatives, continue with online forums, discussion lists. While online forums and discussion lists isn't word-by-word word of mouth marketing anymore, the basics are the same.
Buzzmarketing could be called a mix of social marketing and word of mouth. As an "official" definition buzzmarketing is "Marketing buzz or simply buzz is a term used in word-of-mouth marketing. The interaction of consumers and users of a product or service serve to amplify the original marketing message." or "Buzz marketing is a viral marketing technique that attempts to make each encounter with a consumer appear to be a unique, spontaneous personal exchange of information instead of a calculated marketing pitch choreographed by a professional advertiser."
Buzzmarketing techniques basically lay on two different ideas - firstly you need to have something to talk about. Something that would be worthwhile to the listener, something interesting, something unique, something crazy, weird, unconventional. The idea is that you start with spreading the word about your website using whatever technique (or all of those mentioned in this article) and you're done (for the time being) - ideally now the rest of the marketing will be done by the people you talked with and then by the people those people talk with. And the ball starts rolling. The main requirement - the thing you talk about must be worth it. It must be able to put the next person in the center of attention - he must have found your message so interesting that he wants to share it with others for free. And others must be interested in hearing about it. Think of the crazy links people send to you and which you often forward to someone else. Think of a company in the United States that once managed to rename a small town to half.com in order to promote their website. And no, they didn't pay for it.
Pay per click (PPC)
Paying for getting customers to you website isn't for free, I know. But often paying very little could be considered almost free. And there are ways to pay just one cent per visitor. And if you were earning from your visitors, either via ads or product sales more than that, why not use pay per click advertising.
Free banner exchanges
There's hundreds of different free banner exchanges available for you to take advantage of. While it might not be the marketing method with the best possible result, you could try it out. Usually other websites will display your banner on their site as many times as you display their banner on yours. Some exchanges display more, some less, some totally depend on the click through rate of the banners.
Exchanging links with other website owners is yet another good way to get traffic. For example if you have a website about building a lego town you could contact other websites that are about legos. They might be willing to exchange links with you just because the link to you could give their visitors a new great resource. And vice versa. These days link exchanges are being done between totally different websites as well, but it's generally not a too good idea. The second positive side of link exchanges or three-way exchanges also comes out when we start talking about SEO.
Search engines and SEO
Google can be a great source of traffic. But it's often not so easy to obtain this traffic in huge amounts. As unfortunate as it is, usually it doesn't pay just to have a good website with good topic. Search engines still might not like you for some unknown reason. And when I say unknown - I really do mean it. Nobody really knows the exact algorithms the search engines use. However, there are some basics you should be aware of.
Firstly, you need to do some keyword research in order to have the main keywords for each of the pages of your website. You can find the most popular keywords at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal - this is a free tool for you. However, if you'd like to find keywords that have least competition in the search engines, you might want to pay for a subscription of Wordtracker - http://www.wordtracker.com
Ideally you have three keywords per one page of your site. The main keyword should be included in the site title, in the ALT tag of the first image on the site, within the big (preferably between H1 tags) title and also at least couple of times throughout the text on the page. All of the keywords should also be in your website META keywords tag and used in your page META description.
This is the ideal version, I know. If you do it all for every page your website might start looking like it was built for search engines robot and you don't want that. So just keep the ideas in mind and do whatever you can along the lines.
I mentioned the link exchanges have a positive effect here for SEO purposes - true. The more related websites link to you with specific keywords, the better chance you have of getting to the first page of Google when that keyword is searched for. And that's what you want.
Just to knowingly repeat myself - nobody really knows what feeds the search engines the best - but these are the basics. And for information - there's going to be a major Google update nicknamed Google Caffeine just after the Christmas holidays 2009 that might affect all of your sites placements quite much. In one direction or another.
There are millions of blogs or blog-alike websites out there. They all need content. While the owners can and often do update their content themselves, they are up for help every once in a while. Find a related blog, write a great article and include your bio and link to your website. While this is a rather popular technique nowadays and you might get a lot of NO answers, it's still worth giving a shot. It could pay off both direct traffic as SEO-wise.
Ezine articles could be considered as another type of guest posts. There are a number of free ezine article sites out there including but far from being limited to ezinearticles.com and goarticles.com. You submit your articles to those sites, as with guest posts you include your bio and link back to your website. What's the benefit? As one thing, those sites will be linking back to you - good for SEO. Secondly, the other visitors of these sites have the right to use any of the articles they find there on their own sites as long as they keep the links and everything else you added there attached. And again, more links to your site for SEO purposes as well as some direct traffic from those sites.
Marketing your website offline is also possible. In addition to word of mouth you could spend just a little and print fliers and posters, maybe even pig flu masks with your website address on it. It might cost a bit, but then again - as long as you make them good enough, it might pay off.
In friends we trust
Many now popular websites have actually started with rather small ideas. A bunch of friends come together and create a website to share their photos of some sort. Soon each friend has some more interested friends in it and the site starts to grow. And soon there might be thousands of users. I know it sounds easier than it actually is, but the main thing you should take from here - start by creating something you yourself like or need or want, only this way your website will have a lot more potential to succeed than if you were just to start with a BIG idea.
By the end of the day, you can spend millions of dollars for marketing your website. Or you could spend thousands of hours of promoting your website using free techniques. But before you do, you need to stop and think of one thing - is your website any good? Does it offer anything interesting, useful, special, new - could anyone really give a fark about your website? Is the information you have there valuable? Or even if it isn't, have you managed to package it so that it at least LOOKS like it was valuable? Information sells, but only if it's good enough.